Being a follower. A letter to myself three years ago
How lindy hop changed my attitude to pretty everything
I know how it feels. You come to a party where everyone seems to know each other and have fun. You find a place to sit and wait for some magic to happen with you as well. I know how uncomfortable it may be. And I know that you blame Disney movies for making you a girl who waits.
But no one comes. It may take some time to become a part of community. For someone it’s a piece of cake, for others may take years. It’s ok if you are one of those others. Be patient, get better. Eventually, you will stop waiting and start creating your own magic. Until that, magic will happen randomly.
I remember writing on twitter after my first Lindyshock in 2013:
“Well ok, another three to five years of dance camps and dress will not be THAT important anymore”
That was my first big dance festival and I was pretty shocked (as promised by its name). It was huge, packed with awesome dancers, and again — they all seemed to know and enjoy each other, while I was too shy to have fun. When I got a chance to dance, I was waiting for approval. I compared myself to others right and left. I felt down. But I was well-dressed.
About that time I made my first tattoo, the one you can see above. It says Lead Me, because I believed that being a good dancer, in terms of following means literally to follow as best you can. The key to success is to be light, so the leader can make everything he wants, thus me having a good dance is the responsibility of the leader. Moreover, I thought if some day I give up dancing, the tattoo would still be pretty much about me: unconfident and indecisive. I never talked it loud before, either did not realise or was afraid to be slammed for such an un-feminists approach to life. It sounds very sad now.
One day a friend taught me a trick with active following. It was one simple move, but several seconds when I was in charge of what’s going on in a dance. That was something completely new to me. I was deciding something. When I tried it with other leaders, I saw them surprised but smiling. Of course, it does not work with everyone. But I realised that I can have something to say, not only to listen and go wherever is said.
There will be a lot of classes about playing with rhythm, style and body movement so that eventually you’ll understand that there are no mistakes but variations. You will see that being light is not always good while being heavy is not ultimate evil. And what is the most important, you’ll start following to music more carefully because music is never wrong.
And finally, you’ll see that leaders expect magic from you, just as you wanted to receive it from them. It took me almost five years to figure out what is equal dance partnership and why is it much more interesting than just leading and following. Dear me, I wish we never heard just follow advice.
I am confident enough in my dancing now, so I can even pretend, I’m confident enough to ask leaders I admire to dance. Sometimes. Of course, I still feel down when someone does not smile to me while dancing or when I am not invited for two songs in a row. But when I decide that I feel good tonight, I will. Here is the magic.
It seems like one of the most important parts of a good social dancer is what they have in their head. You can train a lot but if you are not comfortable with yourself, it will not work to the highest level. A lot of training may help. To some extent.
you will be fine. You will make friends, will be happy to meet them while travelling, you will learn how to lead and to have fun, you will have what to share. You will even stop being afraid of taking decisions and responsibility. Thank you for not giving up.
P.S. Almost forgot. The Lead Me tattoo is nowise a mistake. You will eventually marry a guy, who has Follow Me written on his wrist.